--------------- "Internet Use by Teachers: Conditions of Professional Use & Teacher-Directed Student Use." By Henry Jay Becker. Teaching, Learning, & Computing: 1998 National Survey, Report #1. Center for Research on Information Technology & Organizations. The University of California, Irvine, The University of Minnesota February 1999 ---------------
This paper ... includes information about ...
* How frequently teachers & students use the Internet & in what ways * To what extent teachers value having the Internet in their own classroom * How much access teachers have to the Internet * Variations in Internet use & perceived value by the teacher's level of Internet access * Variations in Internet use & value by teaching responsibility * Internet use & value by professional experience & technology expertise * Internet use & value by whether teachers participated in staff development * Internet use & value related to informal teacher-to-teacher contacts * Internet use & value by the teacher's pedagogical approach * Combined effects on Internet use of all predicting factors
The information presented here derives from the national probability sample of teachers of 4th through 12th grade classes in U.S. public & private schools conducted in the Spring of 1998. Approximately 2,250 teachers in the probability sample responded to the survey (69.4% of the teachers identified & sampled).... Statistics presented are weighted to constitute a nationally representative sample of teachers.
Part I. Teachers' Access to the Internet
Over the past five years, schools have been rapidly acquiring access to Internet telecommunications. This has been shown through information provided by the National Center for Education Statistics, as well as our own 1998 data on school-level Internet connectivity. Over 90% of schools now have some sort of access to the Internet, someplace in their building.
Until very recently, though, the type of Internet access that schools had was limited to individual telephone modems connected to single computers, sometimes in a teacher's classroom, but more often in an office or computer lab. It is quite remarkable, then, that more than one-third of U.S. teachers (39%, among 4th - 12th grade teachers) now have some kind of Internet access in their own classroom.
Moreover, nearly as many teachers have high-speed direct Internet connection routed through a local area network to their classroom as have the older, & slower, "dial-up" modem connection.
In addition to the 39% of teachers who have Internet access in their classrooms, another 25-30% teach at schools where at least some instructional rooms in their building have LAN-based internet connectivity. Moreover, a majority of teachers (59%) have Internet access at home & only one-quarter (27%) have no access either at home or in their classroom.
These statistics suggest that, as with other knowledge-oriented professionals, the Internet has begun to be established as an information & communications resource in the working & home environments of most teachers. The next question is whether & to what extent teachers have begun using this resource in their professional lives.
Part II. Frequency of Different Internet Uses
A. Teachers' Uses
1. Use in Lesson Preparation
Most teachers report making some use of the Internet in their professional activities. Our survey asked about three professional uses in particular: finding information & other resources on the Internet; e-mailing with teachers at other schools; & posting information, suggestions, opinions, or student work on the World Wide Web.
A majority of teachers (68%) use the Internet in their effort to find information resources for use in their lessons, & more than one-quarter of all teachers report doing this on a weekly basis or more often (28%).
Teachers who use the Internet in this way typically have either home or classroom access. Both home & classroom access are about equally related to use, & teachers who have the combination of both home & classroom access report the most frequent use, with 46% of such teachers reporting weekly or more frequent use. Of course, it is also likely that teachers who want to use the Internet may go to some effort to acquire either home or classroom access, but it also may be that the presence of the technology increases utilization. Despite these findings, it is also true that even among teachers with both home & classroom Internet access, more teachers report only "occasional" use of the Internet for lesson preparation than report use on at least a weekly basis.
2. Teacher Professional Communications
The survey asked about two additional areas of professional use of the Internet by teachers -- e-mail with teachers from other schools & publishing on the World Wide Web. Far fewer teachers engage in these types of communications than use Internet as an information-gathering tool to obtain resources for lesson preparation. Only 16% of teachers communicated by e-mail with teachers from other schools as often as five times during the school year.
However, classroom access to the Internet may make a difference in whether they use e-mail for professional purposes: Teachers with Internet access both at home & in their classroom were more than three times as likely to e-mail teachers at other schools than teachers who had only home Internet access (33% vs. 9%).
Also, relatively few teachers have begun posting information, suggestions, opinions, or student work on the World Wide Web. Only 18% of teachers did this at all last year.
While this is a relatively small percentage of teachers, publishing information on the Web is a substantially new activity, not within the experience of teachers as much as electronic mail or web browsing might be. To have even that many teachers involved in some way suggests that more growth in this area should be expected, as teachers' experience with using the Internet develops their interest & confidence in being information producers as well as consumers.
Just as information-gathering for lesson preparation is the most common use of the Internet by teachers, teachers have students use the Internet for "research," or information-gathering, more than for any other purpose. In fact, in the past two years, Web searching has become the third most common use of computers by students at school, after word processing & use of CD-ROMs. Web searching even slightly surpasses skills practice by computer drills & learning games in terms of how frequently teachers have students use computers in that way.
Although only a minority of teachers had students use Web browsers during the last school year, the effects of having classroom-located Internet connectivity seems to have been large, at least in terms of baseline levels of use. Among teachers with modems in their classroom, nearly half had students use Web browsers on at least 3 occasions. What might be called "regular" use -- using the World Wide Web to do research on at least 10 occasions -- was a practice of nearly one-quarter of all teachers with a modem in their classroom & 30% of those with direct high-speed connections.
Of course, with a limited number of computer stations in the classroom, the amount of experience that any one student may have had with Web-based research could be quite limited.
2. Student Projects & Publishing
Beyond the traditional activity of using information sources to write reports, some teachers have had students use the Internet to contact other individuals, to collaborate with classes in other schools in joint projects, & to become experts on a topic & publish their findings on the World Wide Web. As of 1997-98, however, very few teachers have had their students involved in those Internet-based activities. Overall, 7% of teachers had students e-mail at least 3 times during the school year, & even fewer involved students in cross-classroom collaborative projects or in Web publishing.
Among teachers whose primary teaching responsibility concerned the subject of computers (as opposed to other subject-matter areas), use of the Internet for these purposes was somewhat more common. Between 12 & 17% of computer-subject teachers had students use the Internet for each of those three purposes -- e-mail, cross-classroom collaborations, & Web publishing. In some cases, it may be that student project work in a computer class is linked to instruction occurring in their subject-matter classes. But this is probably not true most of the time.
Part III. The Internet's Perceived Value for Teachers
Even though a majority of teachers have still not used the Internet in their teaching, & even fewer have used it in a major way, there may be many reasons for this -- the recent development of Internet tools & resources, the rapidity with which technologies are changing, the limited opportunity that teachers have had to see how the Internet can be used in their practice, & the rarity of fast & convenient Internet access. Some teachers who have not used the Internet may be looking forward to a day when they might. How do teachers see the Internet's potential value for them in the near future? Do most teachers see the Internet as a valuable or an essential resource in their teaching, as something of limited value, or perhaps something that is not even needed?
We asked teachers about the value of the Internet in two respects: the value of a teacher's computer station with electronic mail access; & the value of having World Wide Web access in their classroom. In each case, almost one-half of all teachers saw these resources as "essential" for their teaching (49% & 47% respectively) & nearly 90% reported that they would consider these resources either valuable or essential. Even among teachers who did not have access to the Internet either at home or in their own classroom, one-third regarded the Internet as an essential teaching resource.
* Jerry P. Becker Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction Southern Illinois University Carbondale, IL 62901-4610 USA Fax: (618)453-4244 Phone: (618)453-4241 (office) E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org